A Philosophy Of Happiness Despite Overwhelming Odds
At 22 months old, Sam Berns was diagnosed with an extremely rare medical condition known as Progeria, a genetic mutation that causes accelerated aging from a very early age. Progeria causes the failure of bodily structures to grow properly. Body fat and hair loss, deterioration of joints, and heart disease are common symptoms.
Few who contract the disease live past their mid-teens. Knowing the short amount of time he had to "live it up," Sam refused to let his condition interfere with a happy life.
In 2013, Sam, who died in 2014 at age 17, discussed his philosophy of happiness. He laid out an approach that enabled him to achieve goals he set regardless of his physical limitations.
The first aspect to my philosophy is that I'm okay with what I ultimately can't do because there's so much that I can do. Now people sometimes ask me questions like, isn't it hard living with Progeria? Or what daily challenges of Progeria do you face? And I'd like to say that even though I have Progeria, most of my time is spent thinking about things that have nothing to do with Progeria at all. ...
The next aspect to my philosophy is that I surround myself with people that I want to be with, people of high quality. I'm extremely lucky to have an amazing family who have always supported me throughout my entire life and I'm also really fortunate to have a really close group of friends at school.
All people need some sort of support network. Sam found his, and that support empowered him to do achieve some admiral accomplishments, like mentoring younger band members at his school. He said the moments when he felt at his highest were the ones where he was surrounded himself with people who had positive influences on him.
The third aspect to the philosophy is keep moving forward … I always try to have something to look forward to, something to strive for, to make my life richer. It doesn't have to be big, it could be anything from looking forward to the next comic book to come out, or going on a large family vacation, or hanging out with my friends, to go in the next high school football game. However all of these things keep me focused to know that there's a bright future ahead, and may get me through some difficult times that I may be having now.
Of course, like most 17 year olds, Sam's philosophy wouldn’t be complete without his fourth component: never miss a party if you can help it.
Sam passed away at an early age, but his legacy lives on, in this video as well as with the Progeria Research Foundation. Perhaps there is something all of us can learn from Sam's incredible perspective on life and happiness.